The Leading Team of The Music Man

Lauren Longhi & Gianni Palmarini

Lauren Longhi & Gianni Palmarini

The Music Man’s title is a curious one considering much of the story revolves around the transformation of the two main characters: Harold Hill, the slippery salesman and Marian Paroo, the music teacher and librarian of fictional River City, Iowa. While Hill moves closer toward having sympathy for the towns people he plans to dupe, Marian finds a way to open her heart to someone who doesn’t necessarily measure up to her ideal.

Both roles require the actors to convey that transformation. And the well-cast Sun Valley production has delivered two actors who attack the challenge with precision and grace.

Senior Lauren Longhi’s Marian is a study in restraint. Her glorious vocals infuse the show with professionalism and beauty while her measured portrayal of Marian lends the role a dignity that supports the character’s commitment to her family and her town. Considering it’s Lauren’s first lead, her performance is a break out one.

“From all the performances I have been in, I was either a named lady or in the ensemble,” Lauren explains. “So being a leading lady is a whole new atmosphere for me. It takes a lot of dedication to take on a lead role and learning all the lines was very tedious.”

In addition to the challenge of learning lines, Lauren also was faced with two mature scenes with underclassmen: one actor from the middle school and the freshman actor portraying Harold Hill.

“There are two scenes in the music man that involves me kissing someone. The very first time in rehearsal when we came about the kissing scene it was very awkward. One of the reasons why I felt this was because of the age difference. This was only a thought though and I had to put it behind me.”

While Laurens’s scene with eighth grade student Tommy Christaldi, the seedy anvil salesman, is more comical, her scenes with freshman Gianni Palmarini require a more mature and believable approach. But once they got to know each other the scenes became easier, conveys Lauren:

“One of the first scenes Mrs. Hazlett had Gianni and I block was the footbridge scene. This scene involves having a moment where we kiss — for a very long time,” she laughs” “ Gianni and I didn’t really know each other when we were cast as the leads so it was very hard to just jump right in and start kissing each other! But Mrs. Hazlett made us! Over the period of time our friendship grew and we became more comfortable with each other. And that was when the lovey dovey scenes started to become believable.”

And Gianni Palmarini, the young charismatic actor who portrays Harold takes that as a real compliment. Thrilled with the challenge to lead in his first high school musical, he felt a real fear in this new position.

“Taking on the role as a freshman has definitely been a crazy experience,” says Gianni. “I felt that I had some huge expectations to live up to and I had to compare to excellent performers like Lauren Longhi and Michael Mann. But everyone has been extremely supportive and I’m appreciative.”

And Gianni agrees that the romantic scenes are easier now that time and strong rehearsal opportunities are behind them:

“Romantic scenes in a show can sometimes be the most uncomfortable, but not in this case. It helps that Lauren and I are great friends and are comfortable with each other, “ he notes. “The romantic scenes are essential to the plot. It’s just another part of theatre, but it’s a lot better when you do it with someone that you’re comfortable with.”

And it seems this particular cast has a comfort level with their director and each other that has made the show a real joy to perform in. Lauren is thankful that this experience has occurred in her last year in Sun Valley.

“I will take away all the countless memories that my best friends and I have made, starting from freshman year Beauty and The Beast, until now. It has all been a wonderful experience watching the theater program grow and being able to work with so many talented students at Sun Valley High School.”

Lauren feels her growth in the theater department has helped her toward her goal to teach music. “This role has changed me as a performer by enabling me to be more comfortable putting emotion into these songs that I sing,” she says. “Through out my years of performing I am used to the classical setting of a performance, so moving your hands and allowing the audience to feel what you are singing about was a struggle for me. Now
I look back at old pictures of the previous musicals and I can see myself slowly maturing and finding who I am as a person.”
Chosen to represent Sun Valley again this year in the prestigious PMEA All-State Choir, she has also plans to attend West Chester University in September.

While Lauren looks back at a full high school career, Gianni is looking forward at opportunities ahead. He believes that this chance to perform at a high level in The Music Man has been a growing experience as well.

Gianni Palmarini as Harold Hill

Gianni Palmarini as Harold Hill

“The role of Harold hill has definitely improved my level of performance,” observes Gianni. “I would say that singing is more of my strong suit, but this role requires me to use my acting skills, which has benefited me greatly. It’s like a whole different side of theatre.”

And he believes working with seniors like Lauren has made him better:
“Working with someone as talented as Lauren has been a real treat. It’s honestly so refreshing to work with someone who has the same interests as you and I can’t forget that she is extremely talented. She has been a role model and I’m so glad I’ve gotten to work with her.”

Lauren relates that Gianni’s experience acting in local theaters over the years delivered a new found calm while on stage, helping both of them perfect their performances:

Lauren Longhi as Marian Paroo

Lauren Longhi as Marian Paroo

“Working with Gianni has been such a pleasure,” she says. “He is someone who knows how to get things done on stage but also be able to joke around here and there. There have been PLENTY of times where I would panic and think I was going to mess up but Gianni would know the exact things to say to calm me down.”

As Lauren and Gianni take their last bows on stage this weekend, they both realize that The Music Man was an experience that only made them better and delivered to the Penn Delco community a production they can be proud of. From the young actors from Northley to the Sun Valley seniors who grace the stage for one last time, it’s bitter sweet:

“I think The Music Man is so popular today because of the timeless music. No one will ever get tired of hearing a well trained barber shop quartet and wonderful ensemble pieces. Also, the entertaining characters and story lines played a huge part in why the show is still popular after all these years. And my cast mates nailed it!”

Lauren looks back and is grateful all that she has accomplished:

“I have performed in “The Wizard of Oz” “Beauty and the Beast” “Annie” and “Oklahoma” as a high school performer. And from “Kill the beast!” (from Beauty and the Beast) to “Shipoopi!” I will have so many memories that Sun Valley’s stage has brought to me.”